Tag Archives: Virginia Woolf

let’s try this again: first book of the year, take two

First Book 2016

Apparently, I’m allergic to Virginia Woolf.

Or, at least my copy of A Room of One’s Own.

As I wrote in my previous post, my First Book of the Year selection was to be Woolf’s longform essay on women and writing. Perfect for the beginning of this year, for several reasons.

But as soon as I opened it, I started sneezing.

And sneezing.

And sneezing.

An hour of this. Remnants of the sinus/migraine nonsense from earlier?  Some reaction to the chamomile and mint tea?

“I wonder if this book was in someone’s attic,” I wondered between sneezes.  I’d purchased it a few weeks ago at Half Price Books.

“Get rid of it,” The Husband said. “It’s killing you.”

“But it’s my First Book of the Year.”

I sneezed again.

“You’re not going to make it to your second book of the year if you keep reading that book.”

I checked the library’s website to see if the e-book was available.  (It’s checked out; I put a hold on it.) I checked another library’s catalog.  They don’t own it.

I answered with a sneeze.

The Husband stared at me.

“Get. Rid. Of. It.”

“We’ll sell it — ACHOO! — back,” I said, taking it down to the garage.

In a matter of minutes, my sneezing stopped.

So, we change direction. Pick something else.  Go with Plan B, the book I was planning to read after Virginia Woolf.

Boys in the Trees

Boys in the Trees by Carly Simon.

Now if only I could get the lyrics of “Coming Around Again” out of my head.

Baby sneezes
Mommy pleases
Daddy breezes in
So good on paper 
So romantic 
But so bewildering …. 

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welcoming 2016 with the first book of the year

Happy New Year! I hope that your New Year’s celebrations were enjoyable ones and that this first day of 2016 is going well.

We had a quiet New Year’s Eve at home; I made gluten-free lasagna for dinner, read some poetry and essay collections (Spot the Terrorist by Lori Jakiela; Looking for The Gulf Motel by Richard Blanco, and Remains of Passion by Sarah Einstein) to reach my goal of reading 52 books in 2015. We watched the now-insufferable Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, made it to midnight, and tumbled into bed shortly thereafter.

My head was pounding when I woke up this morning; this would be understandable if I’d had wine with dinner, but I didn’t because all we have in the house is red wine. Ironically, that’s usually a surefire migraine trigger for me.  I wound up going back to bed for a few hours and now, with the assistance of my friend Maxalt and some chamomile tea, am feeling much more like myself.

Which is good, because I had big plans for today.

First Book 2016

I’m thrilled that Sheila from Book Journey is hosting her annual First Book of the Year event. I love this event because I’ve always given a considerable amount of thought to which book will be the first that I read in any given year. I place a great deal of importance on selecting the book that I do, because I feel that the first book can set the tone for a year, whether it is to inspire change or growth or … whatever.

A Room of One's Own

For 2016, I chose A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf as my First Book of the Year. It’s one that I’ve been wanting to read for a long time now, it is my selection for The Classics Club’s current spin as well as The Classic Club’s Women’s Classic Literature Event, and since I own this one, it allows me to Read at Least One of My Own Damn Books. (I say it every year, but reading my own damn books is going to be a focus area for me this year. Really.)

I’m excited about this one.  I’ll let you know if it lives up to my expectations.

(The year and the book.)

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Book Review: The Years, by Virginia Woolf

The Years
by Virginia Woolf
Harcourt, Inc. 
1939
435 pages

“Tell me about William Whatney,” she said. “When I last saw him he was a slim young man in a boat.” Peggy burst out laughing.

“That must have been ages ago!” she said.
“Not so very long,” said Eleanor. She felt rather nettled. “Well -” she reflected, “twenty years – twenty-five years perhaps.”
It seemed a very short time to her; but then, she thought, it was before Peggy was born. She could only be sixteen or seventeen.” (pg. 205)

We’ve all experienced this, haven’t we? This somewhat unsettling realization when something that we perceive in our minds to have occurred “not so very long” ago really happened more like two decades (and then some) in the past.

Nice to see that Virginia Woolf understood that even in 1937 when she wrote this novel.

I mean, I fall into this mind trap ALL THE TIME. I still, on more occasions than I care to admit, think 1990 was ten years ago rather than (gulp) 23 years long gone. I chalk this up to approaching my mid-40s, but after reading Virginia Woolf’s novel The Years, now I’d like to look at this differently.

“They talked as if they were speaking of people who were real, but not real in the way in which she felt herself to be real. It puzzled her; it made her feel that she was two different people at the same time; that she was living at two different times in the same moment.” (pg. 167)

Yep. That’s it exactly. We are two different people at the same time, living at two different times in the same moment. We’re a combination of our present and our past. (“What is the use, she thought, of trying to tell people about one’s past? What is one’s past?” (pg. 167)

Virginia Woolf’s second-to-last novel The Years is a commentary about the passage of time, which she brings forth for the reader by showing her characters – members of the large, well-to-do Pargiter family and their extended family – through 1880-1918. (The last chapter is titled “Present Day,” which I suppose is 1939, when the novel was published.) The Pargiters live in London, and at the beginning of the book, are in that sort of odd stage when you’re just watching and waiting for a loved one to pass away. (In this case, their mother.)

Not too much happens in The Years. People visit each other, talk about their life and their travels. They sometimes die. It’s a reflective, thoughtful sort of novel, and truthfully, this takes a little while to get used to – especially if you, like me, are not generally a classics reader or one who doesn’t normally read novels set in this time period. (Woolf’s passion for the semicolon is also more than a bit distracting.) It isn’t until almost halfway through the story that you begin to see the connections among the characters, the passing of time as evidenced by the changing seasons and the weather.

Honestly, up to that point, I kind of considered abandoning this, but then I started gaining an appreciation for what Woolf was trying to say. With the exception of Mrs. Dalloway, which I absolutely loved right off the bat (kudos to Dr. Young, one of the most awesome college English professors ever), I’m finding that this is my typical reaction to Virginia Woolf. I start off a little perplexed, a little lost and confused, and then I get immersed in the story.

Just like life, no?

“My life, she said to herself. That was odd, it was the second time that evening that somebody had talked abut her life. And I haven’t got one, she thought. Oughtn’t a life to be something you could handle and produce? – a life of seventy odd years. But I’ve only the present moment, she thought. Here she was alive, now, listening to the fox-trot. Then she looked round. There was Morris; Rose; Edward with his head thrown back talking to a man she did not know. I’m the only person here, she thought, who remembers how he sat on the edge of my bed that night, crying – the night Kitty’s engagement was announced. Yes, things came back to her. A long strip of life lay behind her. Edward crying. Mrs. Levy talking; snow falling; a sunflower with a crack in it; the yellow omnibus trotting along the Bayswater Road. And I thought to myself, I’m the youngest person in this omnibus; now I’m the oldest … Millions of things came back to her. Atoms danced apart and massed themselves. But how did they compose what people called a life?” (pg. 366-367) 

copyright 2013, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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